As I mentioned in an earlier post, we wanted to build a small cabin of about 600 square feet (a 20×30) with propane, septic and a well; however, with state regulations that dream died unless we wanted to pay closer to $100k for a vacation/getaway spot.
We spoke to our neighbors about what they do for water, utilities, etc. as more of them decided to live off-grid. Most of them tow in an RV for the summer and pull it out before the season ends.
Most of our neighbors, besides an extreme few, haul in their water whenever they come to camp. Most have pick-up trucks and have their water jugs or tanks in the flat bed area and pour/pump their water into a stationary water tank at camp. From the tank, some use gravity feed for their bathrooms while other will use the tank to refill their RV’s. Most say they put in a cap-full or not even a full cap of bleach per 65 gallons of water they haul in to keep it from growing mold.
I am still researching this and IF YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THIS, please let me know.
For a mini indoor sink, I plan to use a beverage dispenser with a dishpan under it. Then at the end of the day, use this water to throw on the fire.
For a Shower, we have a solar shower. Yes, the kind that you lay out in the sun bought off of Amazon. I do advise getting one where the bag comes to a point before the hose so the water is funneled down to the tube. With a flat bottom, you will be shifting the bag back and forth to get the last bit of water out. During the summer, this thing get HOT and is refreshing; however, when it is cool at night or closer to Fall, I take an indoor shower with my Helio Shower and by putting down some towels and a dishpan on the floor. Then with a washcloth, carefully take a shower with putting one extremity into the dishpan before rinsing off. It works and nothing beats feeling CLEAN at the end of the day before bed.
This has probably been the hardest for me as I REALLY WANTED a real toilet while out in the woods….but….it will cost about $7k after getting our perc test done, topography, etc. Most of our neighbors have a septic tank so they can unload their grey and black water during the summer. For us, we manage with the kitty litter method. I am sure we will figure something else out in the future but while we are still in construction mode, this works for now. I am aware of some people having outhouses, although illegal in our area, so make sure before you buy and build!
Lastly, we wanted the conveniences of an RV but wanted to keep the RV on our land year round as we did want to snowshoe out during the winter and stay. For this, we would have had to build a Ramada (like a gazebo or pergola with a solid roof). We get Alaska-like snow loads at our elevation (125-150lbs per sq. ft) so we would need to have it constructed properly with the proper permits. Some neighbors paid upwards of $20k for this…..again, we wanted easy and less money.
So we opted for a dry cabin = Tuff Shed that we glamp out of. We made sure the shed could withstand the high snow load and spoke with the engineering team at Tuff Shed to ensure this. We also thought that IF our plans change later, we can the dry cabin as a shed.
Just about everyone uses a gas generator. I originally had dreams of a mini-fridge and some other electrical devices in the cabin until I realized that a generator would need to run throughout the night. And then trying to “pipe” in electricity to the cabin which would change our permit, etc. So I just decided to forego it and I think we are the only ones that use a Goal Zero Solar Generator Yeti 400. We looked at the Yeti 1200 but it was too heavy for me alone to carry and too expensive. We got a Renogy 100W solar panel that we have mounted to the top of pergola to maximize the most of the sun and it recharges our Yeti much faster than the Goal Zero panels for MUCH less money. Everything we have we try to make sure it recharges via USB (i.e. headlamps, lanterns, tablets – last longer than laptops, Bluetooth speaker, etc.) including lightbulbs in the cabin. I didn’t want to use batteries as we would be more reliant on purchases and needing to go into town to restock. I wanted to be more independent and solar (pending recharge time) is much easier. I also have a small 15W foldable solar panel from Amazon that I use to charge things on the go while we hike or at the creek taking a dip.
UPDATE: As of 2018, we decided to go solar and “pipe in” the electrical. We have neighbors that showed us their solar set-ups for minimal uses like a fridge, water pump, etc. and we decided to add a PVC pipe conduct through a wall for an inverter. I believe ours is a 1000 or 1500. We figured the PVC hole would be easy to “fill-in” if we change our minds.
The way our cabin is set up is we don’t really need electricity at all as we use Yeti and Engel Coolers….but…..we do have a countertop ice maker to replenish the coolers instead of going into town which saves us a one hour drive and a lot of money as ice goes for $5 for a small bag. Honestly, the coolers last for 5-7 days before I REALLY NEED to replenish them and this is very dependent on weather; they last longer in cooler months.
**By the way, I freeze water bottles as the block of ice chills longer and I have drinking water.
Surprisingly on our bad, rocky road into our cabin, the county propane service does come down and fills up everyone 500 gallon tanks. We do not have a propane tank so for us, we plan on insulating our cabin and just using a tent/buddy heater (cracking the windows of course).
At the end of the day, you just have to decide what works for you and what you are willing to put in or not. YouTube is a great place for researching options and so is WordPress blogs.
For us, this is a getaway and a place my husband could stay at if need be, as his work is far from home. We didn’t want this weekend retreat to be a money pit. It is easy to get wrapped up in the dream versus what is the reality of permits and costs, but creativity has definitely made this place more enjoyable than “roughing it.”